The first week after Labour Day each year is typically thought of as “Back to School Day” in many parts of the education system in Canada. We celebrate with dinners out, sales on cell phones, laptops and clothes and pictures on the first day. It is an exciting time for so many students whether entering high school, a career college, community college or university.

But everyday is back to school day for countless regulated career colleges across Canada where individuals choose to return to school, learn a skill and change the trajectory of their own and their families’ futures. For regulated career colleges, every day is “Back to School Day” and often on most days of the week.

Regulated Career Colleges are constantly starting new classes, taking in new students, working with local governments and employers to ensure that we train, retrain and retain the workforce that we actually need in Canada.

Regulated Career Colleges do it without government funding for operations and infrastructure and they focus on local engagement with the business and labour communities to ensure that they are training for our future and the recovery of our economy. They are training the workforce needed now in health care, logistics, business administration, accounting, supply chain, cyber security, and so many other critical fields.

Just this past Monday, the Commercial Safety College (CSC) in Nova Scotia welcomed eight new students “Back to School” in their School Bus Driver and Heavy Equipment Operator programs. In just three weeks, four of those new learners will graduate as ready-to-work professionals from CSC’s school bus program. In 12 weeks the other four with four will graduate from CSC’s heavy equipment program, ready to get right to work in construction.

At the end of their intensive three-week program, CSC-certified school bus drivers will walk into guaranteed employment with local school boards and help ensure that over 200 families can now safely and conveniently get their children to school. In turn, that means the parents of those children can dedicate the time needed to run their family business, provide essential services as a nurse, or keep our supply chain open transporting goods across our country—all without the added burden of worrying about how to get their kids to-and-from school every day.

“I decided to take the program at Commercial Safety College because I didn’t have to wait to start. The program at other institutions start at the end of February and I will be done one week later because I had the option to start now.” – Ian Hape, Student, Heavy Equipment Operator Program, Commercial Safety College

The heavy equipment operators will be trained as entry-level operators on excavators, backhoes, dozers, and loader equipment. Those students will have training endorsed by road building and construction companies in Nova Scotia and beyond, and there will be a line-up of companies ready to hire them. In fact, Commercial Safety College will work with those graduates to ensure that they have good employment opportunities ready for them as soon as they complete their training.

“I was recently laid off and because the program started in December, I was able to take it during my down time at work.” – Taylor Cross, Student, Commercial Safety College

I applaud these learners’ tenacity and focus to on creating new career opportunities for themselves, and I’m grateful to the workforce training experts at Commercial Safety College in helping make their learners’ ambitions a reality.

I encourage you to take a second look at our sector. Reach out and I am happy to arrange a tour of a local college to see the quality of the programs and the courage and focus of our students. These learners had the courage to say the time for me to go “Back to School” is now—and I am proud to be working with them.

Every level of post secondary education has a role to play in shaping and defining our economy and society and we can focus on decisions and outcomes that can ensure that we create the communities, economy and society that we want and deserve.